Family Mediation Week

Today is the first day of family Mediation Week, aimed to raise awareness of mediation as a method to resolve family disputes.

As a lawyer and family mediator I recommend my clients try mediation whenever appropriate. Mediation can be a positive, cost effective option for resolving issues relating to arrangements for children and practical and financial issues surrounding separation and divorce.

More information about family mediation can be found at www.freethsoxford.co.uk/mediation or give me a call on 01865 781182.

This is a process in which the participants meet (initially, separately) with an impartial and specially trained family mediator (or co-mediators) to explain what needs to be settled, to explore the options available and consider ways of reaching agreement on any or all the questions they need to settle. Mediation can help family members to settle arrangements for children and/or financial and property matters at any stage of separation/divorce, as well as some other family matters. Participants are helped to reach well-informed decisions, without pressure from each other or from the mediator. When a full and final settlement is needed in divorce proceedings, the terms worked out in mediation can be used as the basis for a consent order.
'The greatest gift': How I became a surrogate

Surrogacy has been back in the news this week, thanks to the birth of Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West's third child, who was carried by a surrogate mother. 

Here, one surrogate tells the moving story of acting as a surrogate for a friend who had suffered several miscarriages and had been advised against trying to get pregnant again herself. 

Surrogacy has become more and more common over the last few years, and has allowed many people to have children who otherwise might not have been able to. However, it can be fraught with legal issues, particularly because the surrogate mother remains the child's legal parent unless and until the intended parents obtain a court order transferring legal parenthood to them. 

The government and the Law Commission are currently looking at reforms to surrogacy law in the UK, but it will be some time before any action is taken. If you need any advice on this complex area of law, please get in touch. 

'The greatest gift': How I became a surrogate
Multi-millionairess who claims settling for a fraction of the £125m she wanted from her ex is the best decision she ever made

This articles suggests that there was a very long and very, very expensive legal battle to settle the finances following the divorce .Even though it is not uncommon to have to go to Court about such matters ,many cases are settled by agreement between the parties and usually with expert advice from their solicitors .

We at Freeths deal with many such cases .We also subscribe to the Resolution code of conduct which suggests the best approach and helps lawyers and clients work towards a consensual outcome

Check it out at www.resolution.org.uk 

Lisa Tchenguiz, 52, spent four years locked in a battle with ex Vivian ImermanKnown as 'The Man from Del Monte' after he sold a £380m stake in the juice firm.The mother-of-one requested £120m from him but settled for £15m in 2013.She has since found love with Steve Varsano, an American aircraft entrepreneur and insists that they will never get married.

Children of divorced parents who live with a step-mother or father may face greater mental health problems

Family breakdown inevitably causes some upset and disruption to children .In my experience this is minimised if parents can work together amicably in making future arrangements for their children .It also helps to have dialogue about new adult relationships and the introduction of a new partner or spouse .

At Freeths we promote mediation services that can help with this .This process can include direct consultation with children .Contact us for more detail .

Teens living with a stepfather or stepmother are more troubled than their peers.They are more likely to display depression or dishonesty or be bullied at school.Experts suggest it is better for children from broken homes to have a step-parent however, they also face the stress of a ‘new family structure’, claim scientists.

Interesting case that rests upon domicile

This will be an interesting case to follow.  Until the question of where the deceased was domiciled legally when he died, the court cannot go any further in relation to the claim for provision for the child the subject of the application.  Once domicile is decided, and assuming it is in the claimant's favour, it seems to me that there will then be paternity issues to be resolved by DNA testing.  I will be interested to see the end result.  Applying for provision out of a deceased's estate for a dependent child is something that Freeths can certainly assist with where the circumstances are legally appropriate.

Mistress battles tycoon's widow at High Court claiming their 'adored' lovechild should not have been left out of his £2.5m will
Contributions to marriage - a concept that parties find difficult to understand

This is a case from 2017 and concerns a very successful businessman who made £140m through his enterprise while his wife "stayed at home" to bring up their children and look after the home.  She fully supported his enterprises however, including moving to Japan to allow his business to grow, and the Court of Appeal found that she had equally contributed to the marriage.  We see in our work that quite often the larger financial contributor finds it very difficult to understand that concept of equal contribution in such cases and this case quite neatly sets out the courts views in this respect.

It goes without saying that divorce is an unpleasant process. But it becomes even more awful when the separating couple cannot reach an agreement and find themselves engaged in litigation.
Child Maintenance arrears to be written off?

The DWP is consulting on proposal to write off old Child Maintenance debts due to the costs of recovering the same being disproportionate to the amounts being sought.

It appears those parents affected will be written to, asking if they wish the debt to be perused, and if there is no response the debt will be cleared.

It will be interesting to see what responses this consultation get.

If you need any assistance will Child maintenance issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch. More information about child maintenance can be found at:-


DWP papers show around £100m of the collective debt will be cancelled automatically as the amounted owed are deemed too small to be worthwhile chasing.
Tax-Free Childcare opens to children under 9

The tax-free childcare scheme has now opened... for parents of children under 9 years old.  

The scheme is planned to cover children up to the age of 12 years and despite it having taken 5 years to get to this stage since it was announced, HMRC have decided to delay the inclusion of the older children until 14 February 2018.

Parents have to use the official website to register for the childcare scheme at Childcare Choices.

With recent news stories about parents having technical difficulties with the site , presumably HMRC have decided to open the scheme up in sections to try to avoid further issues.  We will have to wait and see whether that proves to be the case.

Today, Tax-Free Childcare opens to parents whose youngest child is under 9, or who turns 9 today. The scheme will open to all remaining eligible families with children under 12 on 14 February 2018. This means all eligible parents will be able to apply for Tax-Free Childcare before the end of this financial year.

Parents, including the self-employed, can apply online for Tax-Free Childcare by visiting Childcare Choices. Parents can also access the government’s childcare calculator through Childcare Choices, which helps parents to choose which government childcare support is best for them.

Child Maintenance and Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein has had a lot of press coverage in recent months, mostly linked to allegations relating to sexual harassment. The last few days have focused on litigation in America between Weinstein and his ex wife.

It appears that in America, if there is regular default of payment of child maintenance the court can order this to be “pre-paid”, presuming the non paying parent has capital available to do this.

This kind of option is not available in this jurisdiction and maintenance can only be collected in default. For most families child maintenance is assessed (and collected) through the Child Maintenance Service. The court here only has jurisdiction if certain criteria are met such as the payer living outside of England or Wales, or the payer earning over the CMS maximum threshold.

More information can be found about child maintenance at:-


Should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Primary school admission deadline

If your child was born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014 (inclusive) the deadline for applying for a primary school place is today. A link to the application in Oxfordshire is below.

Should you not obtain a place at your first choice of school for your child, it is possible to appeal the decision. More information can be found at :-


The deadline for receipt of primary and infant school applications is 15 January 2018.
Automatic divorce for referring to your wife as your mother

During my many years practicing family law I've heard a lot of reasons for starting divorce proceedings, but no one yet has said that they should be automatically divorced where the man has referred to his wife as his mother or sister.

This is apparently the contents of a fatwa issued by the religious authorities in Turkey recently, although unsurprisingly the state authorities, who control the divorce law, haven't acted to change their rules as a result.

In our jurisdiction there are certain basis for showing a marriage has irretrievably broken down.  One of the most commonly used is unreasonable behaviour, and our system requires 4 or 5 examples of behaviour that has led the petitioner to feel the marriage is at an end.  

Using just this one example of someone's actions would not be enough for divorce in our jurisdiction.  However, importantly the couple would only find this out after several documents had passed between them and the court, which is likely to take several months and result in additional steps being needed at additional cost.

I don't see us joining Turkey's religious authorities in creating an automatic divorce any time soon, and so it important that any divorce petition is well drafted.

If you or someone you know would benefit from advice about starting divorce proceedings or family matters generally, please do contact me on 01865 781115 or at gemma.nicholls-webber@freeths.co.uk.  Our guide to divorce proceedings can be found at http://www.freeths.co.uk/how-to-get-a-divorce

If a man refers to his wife as “mother” or “sister” their marriage should be deemed divorced, Turkey’s religious state institution has said, according to a report in the country’s leading newspaper.
Reconciliation contracts

The rise in popularity of pre-nuptial agreements and post nuptial agreements, is understandable for the level of insurance and certainty it can give couples about to marry or during marriage.

Having a contract drafted dealing with behaviour to deal with reconciliation situations is a much newer and more unusual concept.  

The financial issues can be dealt with in a post nuptial agreement, which if properly drafted can provide reassurance for couples worried about future separation or divorce.  This document can confirm how assets will be divided and what financial support there will (or won't be).  Taking this further to also prepare a document including promised changes in behaviour is something some people may find difficult to agree and accept.

More information about pre and post nuptial agreements can be found at:-


Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

When it comes to marriage, so much of a partner's behaviour is taken on trust, despite the fact that this arrangement is meant to tie you together for life. When that behaviour turns out to be lacking, people are no longer prepared to put up and shut up as previous generations did.

Having a document that lays out the terms on which you believe you can make your long-term relationship work seems to be striking a chord with the clients who come to me

Surrogacy funding awarded in successful clinical negligence claim

A recent High Court case has confirmed for the first time that, in very limited circumstances, where a woman suffers fertility issues because of clinical negligence she may be able to claim compensation to cover the costs of having a child through surrogacy. 

In this case, the claimant's doctors had negligently failed to diagnose cancer of her cervix until it was at such a late stage as to require major surgery and chemo-radiotherapy. Sadly, the claimant's treatment left her unable to conceive or carry a child.

The court awarded the claimant damages to cover surrogacy costs, albeit limited to an amount sufficient to fund a surrogacy arrangement in the UK rather than abroad, and using the claimant's own eggs rather than donated eggs. 

If you need advice on the legal issues around surrogacy or fertility law more generally, please do get in touch. If you find yourself in the distressing situation of having to deal with fertility issues that you think may be the result of substandard medical care, we also have a specialist clinical negligence team who can advise and assist you.  

The award of damages to enable surrogacy
Sharia divorce not recognised by EU law

The ECJ has called the Sharia divorce between a couple living in Germany a 'private divorce' and so EU law is not applicable.

In England and Wales the Sharia divorce Talaq is separate to a civil divorce, and a civil divorce is required for the divorce to be legally recognised.  I often find my clients choose to have civil divorce proceedings through the English court and then at the conclusion complete their Islamic divorce.  

The financial remedies available to the couple can be different under the two different systems so it is important to get experienced legal advice at an early stage.

A couple in Germany who divorced in a Sharia court in Syria cannot have their divorce validated under EU law, Europe's top court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice said member states must decide for themselves whether to recognise "private divorces", such as those performed in Sharia courts.

Prison for non-payers of child maintenance in Poland

Polish legislation was changed earlier this year to deal with issues of non payment of child maintenance.  The rules appear to have had a positive impact, by virtue of a sanction of up to 12 months in prison for 3 months arrears of child maintenance.

In this jurisdiction, Child Maintenance is normally agreed between the parents or if an agreement cannot be reached, is determined by the Child Maintenance Service. Non payment of maintenance can be enforced by the CMS by attachments of earnings, deductions from bank accounts, charging orders or liability orders which can lead to the involvement of bailiffs.  If these steps do not work the CMS can, as a last resort, make an application to have a driving licence removed or imprisonment for up to 6 weeks.

If you need any help or advice on issues relating to  child maintenance, more information can be found at www.freeths.co.uk/child-maintenance or you can telephone me on 01865 781182.

Legal changes came into effect in Poland in May aiming to make it more difficult to avoid child maintenance payments.

People who have three months of arrears in such payments now face up to a year in prison.

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